Want to keep good employees? Management matters!

Have you noticed the wealth of television shows and movies that attempt to put the “fun” in “dysfunctional bossing” (“The Office”, “Nine to Five”, “Bad Bosses” . . .).  Clearly the market-savvy producers know a huge percentage of their viewers have been there, done that. At some point in our adult lives, most of us have felt the sting of a supervisor with less-than-exemplary people skills. And there is no lack of research to prove it!

Several years ago, a professor at Florida State University conducted a study to determine if it is true that “employees don’t leave their job or company, they leave their boss.” He learned that managers not only influence an employee’s decision to stay or go, but have a direct impact on their health and job performance. Many other studies confirm his findings. The factor most commonly cited for motivating voluntary separations is poor management.

In case you are among the tiny minority who cannot relate . . . if all your managers have been ideal . . . consider the two stories below:

Bad boss story 1: After employees of a mid-west department store enjoyed a company-sponsored July 4th picnic, one manager decided the left over hot dogs were to be stored in the break room freezer for use at the Labor Day picnic, yet to come. Unfortunately, one of the employees did not get that message (apparently not posted in the break room). The day after the picnic– hungry and on break– he helped himself to two of the hot dogs. Shocking, right?! Not really. But the next part is. After reviewing security camera footage, his manager discovered this brazen act and took the issue to the store manager. The manager gave the employee an ultimatum: sign a statement admitting you stole the hot dogs or we call the cops. And so, over two left over hot dogs, the police were called to carry away this menace to society. And, just to squirt mustard in the wound, his application for unemployment benefits went through several decisions, appeals and reversals, ultimately taking him up to the state’s Court of Appeals. It was here that our dog-napper was finally vindicated and his termination was deemed unjustifiable.

Bad boss story 2: A woman in another state tells of a particularly hard-to-please boss. After the sales staff doubled its revenues in a month they remained unable to meet the boss’ unreasonable projections. So, rather than reconsidering those out-of-whack projections, the boss did the only thing he could do. He took away the staff’s chairs and made them stand at their desks.

What is a good boss? Most people would agree that a good boss exhibits characteristics like consideration for employees, setting clear goals, setting realistic expectations, communicating and giving feedback, managing change, including people in decision-making and delegating authority.

Internet giant Google recently set out to correct its own retention issues. Referencing various performance reviews, surveys and other internal reports, Google discovered that managers had a much greater impact on employee’s performance and job satisfaction than any other factor. So how did they fix it? With a thorough training program.

To keep good employees and encourage all to be better workers, don’t assume salary and benefits are the prime motivators. It starts with effective, employee-focused management. Like Google, you can’t overlook the importance of listening to your employees and establishing a good management training program. Adults learn best through exercises, experiences and coaching.

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